The Sharp-tailed Grouse, Tympanuchus phasianellus, is a medium-sized prairie grouse. It is also known as the sharptail, and is known as "fire grouse" or "fire bird" by Native American Indians due to their reliance on brush fires to keep their habitat open. Males weigh an average of 33.5 oz. (951 g) and females average 29 oz. (815 g). The Greater Prairie-chicken, Lesser Prairie-chicken, and Sharp-tailed Grouse make up the genus Tympanuchus, a genus of grouse found only in North America.
There are six subspecies of Sharp-tailed Grouse:
Adults have a relatively short tail with the two central (deck) feathers being square-tipped and somewhat longer than their lighter, outer tail feathers giving the bird its distinctive name. The plumage is mottled dark and light browns against a white background, they are lighter on the underparts with a white belly uniformly covered in faint "V"-shaped markings. Adult males have a yellow comb over their eyes and a violet display patch on their neck. The female is smaller than the male and can be distinguished by the regular horizontal markings across the deck feathers as opposed to the irregular markings on the males deck feathers which run parallel to the feather shaft. Females also tend to have less obvious combs.
These birds display in open areas known as leks with other males, anywhere from a single male to upwards of 20 will occupy one lek (averaging 8-12). Males stamp their feet rapidly, about 20 times per second, and rattle their tail feathers while turning in circles or dancing forward. Purple neck sacs are inflated and deflated during display. The females select the most dominant one or two males in the center of the lek, copulate, and then leave to nest and raise the young in solitary from the male. Occasionally a low-rank male may disguise himself as a female and walk to where the dominant male is and fight him.
These birds are declining in numbers and range due to habitat loss, but overall they are not considered a threatened species.
This is the provincial bird of Saskatchewan.